John Cale interview (2005)

John Cale

John Cale talks about getting his groove on, Iggy Pop, and decapitating poultry.

Last updated: 21 November 2008

You've touring the new album, BlackAcetate. How's it been?

We didn't get further than Berlin this time, but in January, February, we'll get down to Spain and Greece. The audiences there are very close to being where they understand what to expect. That it's a rock 'n' roll band, and we're playing rock 'n' roll.

Herb Graham Jr was your main collaborator on the album - is he out with you?

No. He was the main engineer, and helped me with the grooves. He helped me really focus on getting myself in a different place to HoboSapiens. Hobo has grooves that were pretty rigid; I played all the grooves on this one, but we didn't go that one step further and quantise it. It's loose, it's kind of warmer.

Herb has worked with R&B artists like Macy Gray. Did you have that in mind when you hired him?

That's one reason. He's a really big fusion jazz drummer, he does George Benson tours, so he's very sharp. He really turned out to be valuable when I started making my own grooves up, because he kept me away from doing stuff that had already been done.

A song like Brotherman is funky in a way you've not been known for.

I made that track and I had no idea what to do with it. I was rapping in the studio - well, not rapping, just making up jokes. And everyone started laughing so I kept going. There were other tracks that were much more hardcore funk than that, but I've still got to go back and finish them.

We worked September through to November, and then came back in January. We were knocking out three tracks a day, and getting closer to where I wanted to be, which turned out to be Hush. I think I deliberately just dropped the bass - in general I focused on using the drums more as a driving point behind writing the songs.

Do you identify with the phrase 'it's not where you're from but where you're at'?

Yeah. Yeah! (Laughs). I've not heard that before, but it's great. I like what the future holds. I don't like thinking about the past.

One song that stood out was Perfect. On the surface, it's quite sweet, but the line "You're perfect for me, right now", lends it a slightly different edge - that all love is fleeting.

Yes. You'd better take it while you get it. I wouldn't even use the word love. Maybe 'Get along with'? It's not necessarily a love song. I never use the word, it's loaded. What love means to me is need. I think everybody has that need.

That's a very anti-romantic way of looking at things.

Yes. But it's very useful, because it clears the deck for a lot of other things. If you're all loaded up on love, you haven't got anywhere else to go.

Do you return to Wales often?

I played in Cardiff on this tour, and it was really kind of wonderful. I had 16 members of my extended family there, I kind of wangled a reunion. I hadn't seen them in a long time, and to be honest I don't feel very comfortable in Wales - I feel kind of an oddity. But they were so busy networking with each other I didn't have to do the MC bit at all. It was like a playground!

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